Visionary Magic on a Heroic Scale

Ebbets FieldThursday, May 19, 2016, marked the premiere of Dylan Mattingly’s monumental work for piano, Achilles Dreams of Ebbets Field. Three years ago or thereabouts, the vital, fearless pianist Kathleen Supové invited Mattingly to compose a work for piano—anything he wanted, of any length. Could Supové, or even Mattingly himself, outsized dreamer though he is, have predicted just how big it would become?

I imagine Mattingly, seized of Supové’s open invitation, taping reams of butcher paper to his walls, with stacks of post-it notes, assorted pens, and copies of The Iliad (at least one in the rhythms of its original Greek) to hand. Adjectives, verbs, and nouns erupted in a volcano of imagination, each word giving voice to a chapter of The Iliad refracted through the prism of contemporary life. What were the words, and how many? Which words served his inspiration, and which were set aside?

We do have the final words he chose for each movement, passed on to Supové and to us as listeners, not as prescriptions, but as offerings: they include words and phrases such as Invocation (I), Catalogue of Heroes (II), Gods and Insects (V), Brutality (X), For Jackie Robinson (XI), Love, Death, Paleoclimates (XVI), Muddy River (Aristea . . . If I Had Wings) (XXI), Ebbets Field (XXIII). We can take them or let them be, as we require. They are signposts that guide us along the musical journey, even as Mattingly knows and desires that Supové as performer and we, as listeners, will enter into the journey and make it our own.

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In Mattingly’s hands, what started out as a volcano of word confetti became a 24 movement, two-hour, musical tour de force, shapely in every aspect, from grand design to small detail, from tranquil meditations to ecstatic visions worthy of Messiaen. Accompanied by Taylor Gonzalez’s understated, evocative projection mapping, Supové, in her riveting performance, inhabited not only each note, rhythm, and dynamic, but also reached deep inside the piece and limned, from quiet splendor to explosive force, the whole, gorgeous gamut of human spirit Achilles contains. Without Supové, it’s possible, even probable, that Achilles would not have come into being. It is likewise to her extraordinary pianism and commitment that we owe grateful thanks for bringing Mattingly’s triumphant feat of imagination to blazing, transcendent life.

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Listening List

Achilles Dreams of Ebbets Field (Midi recording)

Part XI: For Jackie Robinson
Part XXII: Muddy River (Aristea…If I Had Wings)

Impressions of Portugal, Rota Vicentina (1)

4 IMG_0663When we get a chance to travel, we try to split our stay between city and country time. With the latter, we place a premium on walking. In Portugal’s Rota Vicentina, we hit the jackpot beyond our wildest dreams. I recognize I’m spouting cliché after cliché, but in this case, beyond a few bits of information about the area, the photographs, I hope, will tell the tale. Continue reading

Impressions of Portugal, Rota Vicentina (2)

Henry the Navigator, Aljezur

Henry the Navigator, Aljezur

The first photographs in the slideshow are of Aljezur. Aljezur, now inland, was a major port in the 15th century “before the river silted up.” [Rough Guide to Portugal] It is also the “crossover point of two major long-distance walking trails, the Via Algarviana” and the Rota Vicentina (Historical Way). [Rough Guide] Continue reading

Impressions of Portugal, Belém

Padrão dos Descobrimentos (western profile)

Padrão dos Descobrimentos (western profile)

Illustrious Gama, whom the waves obey’d,
And whose dread sword the fate of empire sway’d.
—Luís de Camões (from Os Lusíadas)

The Museu Coleção Berardo, described as “the main museum for modern and contemporary art in Portugal,” lured us to spend a day in the Lisbon parish of Belém. The Museu is housed in the vast Centro Cultural De Belém (Belém Cultural Center or CCB), which was “erected as a showpiece for Portugal’s 1992 presidency of the European Union.” [Time Out Lisbon, p. 98] Continue reading

Impressions of Portugal, The Chiado

01 Pessoa and Me IMG_0378_edited-1The child that laughs in the street,
The song one hears by chance,
The absurd picture, the naked statue,
Kindness without any limit –

All this exceeds the logic
Imposed on things by reason,
And it all has something of love,
Even if this love can’t speak.

Fernando Pessoa, 4 October 1934

A nice thing about settling in for a few days in one location is the chance to poke around at leisure in the neighborhood, which for us was The Chiado in Lisbon. I hadn’t connected all the dots beforehand, so a sense of serendipity accompanied our realization that the Café A Brasileira—a well-known Fernando Pessoa haunt—was nearby. Continue reading